Wednesday, July 13, 2016

MS Welcome Center celebrates 40th anniversary with music, food, fun




Visitors who pulled into the Mississippi Welcome Center on northbound Interstate 59 found far more than a rest stop on July 1, 2016. The Center was decorated with flowers and balloons, and a large stage faced the fountain on the front walk as staff and friends celebrated the Center’s fortieth anniversary. Located in Pearl River County just north of Nicholson (Exit 1), the antebellum-style brick building serves travelers heading north from Interstates 10 in Louisiana and eastern Mississippi and 12 in Louisiana.

Supervisor Cindy Poland
Bright sunshine brought high temperatures. The morning opened with a bang as a cannon shot rang out. 

Marlon Ivy, Manager of the Mississippi Welcome Centers
Supervisor Cindy Poland introduced a parade of guests as the ceremony began, beginning with Tom King (Southern District Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Transportation). Marlon Ivy, manager of the Mississippi Welcome Centers, followed King and related a little of the center’s history. The facility opened on July 1, 1976, the third one in the state. Since the first center opened, more than 2,197,000 visitors have signed in across the state, with more than 120,000 of them coming through this branch.


Poland returned to the podium to speak about her staff, thanking them for their work in making visitors to the center feel welcome.


Poland works on decorations as volunteer Harriet Groelich covers the front desk
“We are salespeople selling Mississippi,” said Poland, pointing out the many services they provide. In addition to free coffee and restrooms, the facility offers information on many area attractions and businesses. The staff will provide directions, offer recommendations based on what the visitor indicates as their interests, and will even go so far as to help make reservations for travelers. The center is filled with a variety of maps, magazines and brochures, all given away free to visitors. She noted the pineapple motif on the fountain, a traditional symbol of hospitality and reminded visitors of Mississippi’s nickname as “The Hospitality State.”
Tonya Attaway

Following her presentation, Poland introduced a series of singers to entertain the visitors. Tonya Attaway led, followed by Nicolay Difort with Debra Prather closing the musical portion of the program.

MacKenzie Pharr, 2016 Teen Miss Blueberry
Guest appearances on the grounds by 2016 Teen Miss Blueberry Mackenzie Pharr, the classic cars of Boulevard Cruisers of Picayune, and members of the Mississippi Chapter “O” of the GoldWing Road Riders Association added to the fun of the day. 

MS Chapter "O" GoldWing Road Riders Association
Representatives of the Pat Harrison Waterway District roasted hot dogs for distribution to visitors outside, while other tasty treats were served inside. Many were donated by area businesses, while others were prepared by staff members, including the celebratory cake.
The Welcome Center operates year-round, providing a welcome respite and lots of information to visitors as they enter the state. The ever-changing art displays and historical artifacts assure visitors of an entertaining and information visit. The coffee, facilities, information and friendly greetings are all provided at no charge to the visitors.


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